What Is Diarrhea?
When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements (or stools) are loose and watery. It’s common and usually not serious.
Many people get diarrhea a few times a year. It normally lasts 2 to 3 days. Some people get it more often. It could be because they have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other conditions.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Usually, diarrhea happens because of a virus that gets into your gut. Some people call it “intestinal flu” or “stomach flu.”
Other causes include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Allergies to certain foods
- Diseases of the intestines (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Eating foods that upset the digestive system
- Infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning) or other organisms
- Laxative abuse
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- Radiation therapy
- Running (Some people get “runner’s diarrhea” for reasons that aren’t clear.)
- Some cancers
- Surgery on your digestive system
- Trouble absorbing certain nutrients also called “malabsorption”
Diarrhea may also follow constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Symptoms of Diarrhea include;
- Bloating in your belly
- Thin or loose stools
- Watery stools
- An urgent feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
- Nausea and throwing up
Examples of symptoms that would require medical attention include;
- Blood or mucus in your stool
- Weight loss
If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you’re not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated. That can be a serious problem if it’s not treated.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
- Blood in your diarrhea or black, tarry stools
- A fever that is high (above 101 F) or that lasts more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea lasting longer than 2 days
- Nausea or throwing up that prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids
- Severe pain in your belly or rear end
- Diarrhea after coming back from a foreign country
If Diarrhea is accompanied by the following signs seek medical advise;
- Dark urine
- Smaller than usual amounts of urine or, in a child, fewer wet diapers than usual
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry skin
In most cases, the doctor inquires about your medical history and what medications you take, as well as what you’ve eaten or had to drink recently. A physical exam is given to look for signs of dehydration or belly pain.
The following tests can help figure out the diarrhea problem;
- Blood tests to look for certain diseases or disorders
- Colonoscopy, in rare cases, in which your doctor looks inside your colon with a thin, flexible tube that holds a tiny camera and light. They can also use this device to take a small sample of tissue. Or your doctor might need to do only a sigmoidoscopy, which looks at just the lower colon.
- Stool tests to look for bacteria or parasites
Treatment for Diarrhea
You can take anything mild cases. Adults can take an over-the-counter medicine such as bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide, you can the medicines as liquids or tablets. Other things to observe are;
- Stay hydrated.
- Drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of fluids each day.
- Choose electrolyte replacement drinks or soda without caffeine.
- Take chicken broth (without the fat), tea with honey, and sports drinks.
- Avoid drinking liquids with your meals, drink liquids between meals.
- Sip small amounts of fluids often.
How Can I Feel Better?
Your rectal area may become sore because of all the bowel movements that diarrhea brings. You may have itching, burning, or pain when you go to the bathroom. Take a warm bath to relieve the uneasiness. Pat the area dry (don’t rub) with a clean, soft towel later on. You can also try using a hemorrhoid cream or petroleum jelly on the affected area.